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Step back, take a deep breath

27 Jun

and weigh it against the scriptures. That continuation of this post heading is from one of the rare critical comments I found as I researched “The Shack” by William P. Young. This is the newest book being heralded in the Christian community. For the most part this book is getting rave reviews. Just yesterday (June 26th) the book received 10 reviews and all but one were given the highest mark (5 stars) by the reviewer. The book has been as high as #7 of the top selling books on Amazon.com. The book is hugely popular. It currently has over 680 reviews, with 527 of them ranking it 5 stars.

As a Christian I have seen many books get heralded as the next new great thing to bring you closer to God. To mention a few: “The Purpose Driven Life”, “The Prayer of Jabez”, “Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper”, “Wild At Heart”, “The Ragamuffin Gospel”. Each of these were gobbled up by the Christian community. Are we that desperate and thirsty to know God outside of His word? Do we abandon everything we know or don’t know about who God is as written in scripture? Someone explain to me why we latch on to what a man has written above what is found in the God breathed scripture. Why do we not step back, take a deep breath, and weigh the book against scripture?

I have not read the book “The Shack” completely but I have accessed several resources who have read it and have read back what is found there. A couple of months ago Dr. Albert Mohler dedicated his entire radio program to reviewing the book. Here are some written excerpts from the show: The book is being compared to “Pilgrim’s Progress” for it’s allegorical use. The book is fiction but it does make some very clear theological claims, such as: the character Papa who is God (seen by Mac, the main character, as an African American woman) says

When we three spoke ourselves into existence as the son of God we became fully human.

This is a complete destruction of the biblical understanding of the Trinity. The Godhead did not become human. On page 110 the character of Jesus does not say that I am the only way to Papa (God) but he does in fact say that I am the “best way” that any human can relate to Papa (God). This is not just a subtle re-imagining of the Christian faith. No matter how you slice that use of the english language, “best way” means there are other ways and I as I mentioned in my previous post, flies in the face of John 14:6.

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

It is impossible to get past this verse in scripture. No one has access to the Father except those who follow Jesus Christ. Tim Challies states it in his review of “The Shack”, “the book has a quietly subversive quality to it”.

Throughout the book there is this kind of subversive strain teaching that new and fresh revelation is much more relevant and important than the kind of knowledge we gain in sermons or seminaries or Scripture.

Again, why do Christians seem to go crazy over these books without weighing against what we know in God’s word? If you can just step back and think critically you will see them as unbiblical. I also found a nice video of Mark Driscoll commenting on “The Shack”. Check it out below.

Like the reviewer on Amazon said “step back, take a deep breath” and think critically. Does what this book teach or suggest line up with scripture?

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11 responses to “Step back, take a deep breath

  1. Leo

    June 27, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Thanks, I’ve never heard of the book until now. Sorta sounds like Christian pop culture continuing to go wrong…I’ll have to keep an eye out for it amongst friends and warn them.

     
  2. barrydean

    June 27, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    You bet Leo my bro. It is just one in the line of many with more to come I’m afraid. The best thing we can do to prepare for these things is know God’s word. Then we will recognize counterfeit when we see it.

     
  3. Seeker

    June 27, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Hi Barry. What do you think of the movies like the Chronicles of Narnia series or the book “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? I just wanted your thoughts. Thanks.

     
  4. barrydean

    June 28, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Hey Seeker,

    I really enjoyed the books years ago. I have seen the first movie and liked it pretty well. If you are trying to draw parallels between the books it would not be prudent.

    Lewis did not proclaim – or even allude to – Aslan as Christ. While there were parallels, he was not written to be Christ.

    Aslan isn’t an allegory of Jesus Christ. Instead, he’s a supposal. Lewis emphasizes this point in a December 1958 letter to a lady named Mrs. Hook:

    [Aslan] is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question ‘What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?’ This is not allegory at all.

    The characters portrayed in “The Shack” claim to be divine. It is not alluded or supposed it is stated as fact. For that reason alone – although the genre is fiction – the author has made graven images of the Trinity.

     
  5. Erik

    June 29, 2008 at 1:05 am

    I’m starting to read ‘The Shack’ now after hearing alot of the Reformed blogosphere came down very critically on it. It is amazing to me how many more on the other side of the spectrum have eaten this book up and recommended it to so many others. A person on my FedEx route just gave me ‘The Shack’ last week and wants me to read and then chat with them about it. I’m not a huge fan of fiction but it seems like this book won’t go away. By the way, the author lives here where I live: Gresham, Oregon. I’m still curious what church he goes to. If anyone finds out, let me know on my blog. Thanks for the review Barry! Very insightful.

     
  6. barrydean

    June 29, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Erik,

    Yeah, we do seem to get very critical at times. I think with a book as popular as this one is we do need to take a hard look at what the author is trying to get across. When it comes to making claims that are contrary to biblical teaching we should be putting out the warnings. If you listen to the Dr. Mohler radio piece, he received the book under the mistaken premise that the giver was advocating it. It later learned the opposite after reading it and approaching the person he received it from. So he read it without any negative preconceived notion. He found many startling things wrong with it. Please let me know what you think after you read it.

     
  7. Seeker

    July 2, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts, Barry. From Wikipedia, this is what I found out about the character Aslan in the series:

    Aslan, the “Great Lion,” is the central character in The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven fantasy novels for children written by C. S. Lewis. He is the eponymous lion of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and his role in Narnia is developed throughout the remaining books. He is also the only character to appear in all seven books of the series.

    He is a talking lion, King of the Beasts, son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea; a wise, compassionate, magical authority (both temporal and spiritual); mysterious and beloved guide to the human children who visit; guardian and saviour of Narnia; and ultimately revealed as its creator and destroyer. The author, C. S. Lewis, described Aslan as an alternate version of Christ—that is, as the form that Christ might have appeared in a fantastic world.

    Barry, the Bible itself is full of allegories. The parables Jesus spoke of were all allegorical. In this day and age, will people come to Christ simply because we say He’s real? No, they won’t. People WILL come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Master by his own people, showing His love and example through their own unique and pure means.

    Thanks for your post, Barry. It has been very thought provoking.

     
  8. Really Robin

    July 2, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    So basically, Shane, what you’re saying is that we are to use our own means to tell people about Christ? I’m just trying to understand what you are saying.

    The Bible says we’re to tell people the gospel, that being Christ crucified. Now, I can share what Christ has done in my life, but that is not preaching the gospel.

    I also believe the Bible teaches that people are drawn by God using the Holy Spirit – not by what people say or do. That is not to say we are not to love people. We are called to love our neighbor. We are called to love our brother. We are called to love the world. We are also called to be in the world, but not of the world. We are called to be and do many things. Some things we fail at, and others we do well – both on an individual basis and a corporate basis.

    And, of course none of that is on topic, so I guess that’s a freebie. As far as “The Shack” goes; it is no more a problem in general, as a piece of fictional entertainment, than is “Harry Potter”. The problems comes in believers thinking they now understand the Trinity by reading it, and by Mr. Young creating an “idol” for God. God is allowed to create us in His own image, but He has very clear guidelines about us NOT creating Him in ours.

    It is what it is. Put lipstick on a pig and it will still be a pig -just more colorful, and extremely angry!

     
  9. Seeker

    July 3, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Hi Robin. Thank you for your thoughts. I know and agree that the Scriptures teach that no man comes to Jesus except the Father draws him, and that the Holy Spirit is the One always doing the work. Yes, we are to preach and teach the gospel, and can use allegories as long as we do not make the allegories themselves to be idols or as God. I’m not disputing those facts at all. While I don’t advocate some methodology that would put works of fiction or idols in the stead of Christ, there are some legitimate works out there that allegorically portray Christ. My opinion, bottom line, is that truth is to be preached, taught, lived, spoken, ect…and the more we spend time with the Spirit of TRUTH–the Holy Spirit, in the Word of Truth, allowing nothing substitutionary, then God can and will work.

     
  10. Amy

    July 4, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Barry —

    Thanks for your insightful review. I started reading The Shack with no preconceptions, and had to stop about halfway through. It’s portrayal of “God” is disturbing, more so because many Christians don’t seem to see the small bits of “new” doctrine intermixed with some orthodox views. Yes, God loves us, He doesn’t want bad things to happen, He can still make good things result from them (Romans 8:28), but this doesn’t excuse the disrespectful portrayal of the great I AM or searching for new revelations that don’t jibe with Scripture.

    We need to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Once I saw on display a Bible splattered with the blood of its owner who died defending what was within its pages. We are free to not believe what is written there, but we don’t have the right to “interpret”/add new truths for a new generation.

    Just my thought. Thanks.

     
  11. barrydean

    July 4, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Thank you Amy. Amen! I totally agree with what you’ve said. With the popularity of the book “The Shack” and other books as well which teach a gospel contrary to the one taught by the Lord I am reminded of Galations 1:6-9

    6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

    We should be shooting up the warning flare whenever we encounter such deviations from the truth found in scripture, the truth revelation of Jesus Christ.

     

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